Gates, Frederick Taylor
The country school of
PUBLICATIONS OF THE GENERAL
OCCASIONAL PAPERS, No. 1
THE COUNTRY SCHOOL
FREDERICK T. GATES
^^^81 Jy Or
GENERAL EDUCATION BOARD
17 Battery Place New York City
GENERAL EDUCATION BOARD
sent on request
The General Education Board : An Account of
its Activities 1902-1914. Cloth, 254 pages, with
32 full-page illustrations and maps.
Public Education in Maryland, By Abraham
Flexner and Frank P. Bachman. Paper or
cloth, 196 pages, illustrated.
Report of the Secretary of the General Educa-
tion Board, 1914-191S, paper, 96 pages.
1. The Country School of To-morrow, By Fred-
erick T. Gates. Paper, 15 pages.
2. Changes Needed in American Secondary
Education, By Charles W. Eliot. Paper, 29
3. A Modem School, By Abraham Flexner.
Paper, 24 pages.
THE COUNTRY SCHOOL OF
IN WHICH YOUNG AND OLD WILL BE TAUGHT IN PRACTICABLE WAYS
HOW TO MAKE RLTIAL LIFE BEAUTIFUL, INTELLIGENT,
FRUITFUL, RECREATIVE, HEALTHFUL, AKD JOYOUS
FREDERICK T. GATES
(CHAIRiLAX OF THE GENERAL EDUCATION BOARD)
THROWN on a screen at a recent conference on rural life
was a series of photographs of country school houses in
various states, taken by superintendents of rural schools.
A few were neatly constructed and about them were pleasant
grounds. The larger number were small, one-roomed structures
set on pegs, weather-blackened, window-smashed, often with
wrecked entrance steps and lockless door; for chimney, a length of
stove-pipe thrust through side or back; for furniture, a perpendicu-
lar combination of bench and desk, well-fitted to be an engine of
torture. Improvement of the grounds had rarely been conceived.
On the contrary, the original picturesqueness of wild nature had
been defaced and belittered. From November onward, for three
to seven months, somewhat less than one half of the school popula-
tion of the district may be found there, usually taught by a young
girl, often a last year's older pupil of this or a neighboring school.
Enter, and you shall see her painfully teaching her class to read
sentences of English, quite likely as one would pronounce the
successive words in the perpendicular colunms of a spelling book.
Such in the main, we were told, are very many of the rural district
schools of the South, and similar are many in the Northern States.
Continuing the series of pictures, the inspectors and physicians
of the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission came forward. They had
caught the schools in session, and photographed teacher and
pupils, grouped in front of the school house. In some instances
all, teacher and pupils alike, were suffering from hookworm disease.
Their emaciated, misshapen, or bloated bodies, their sad, pale
listless, hopeless faces, marked with habitual sufifering, faces
which no art could charm into a smile that would not be ghastly,
told the story of disease and neglect. There are well nigh or quite
two million of these children in the South, between six and sixteen
years of age, weighed down, arrested, and stunted physically and
mentally by this disease, many thousands each year finding relief
from it in death. This number must be multiplied by the indirect
toll of increased fatality in other diseases, traceable solely to this
complication. Sixty thousand people, most of them children,
have already been treated in North Carolina alone, and the
work has been conducted systematically in a few counties only.
Here is a word picture dra\Mi by one of the State Superinten-
dents of the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission, of the crowds,
often munbering several hundreds, which throng his improvised
"The people come from far and near, from all stations in life.
They come on trains, by boat, in wagons, carts, and buggies.
Many come on foot from ten to twenty miles. Some, too weak
to make the journey and falling by the wayside, are picked up by
passing vehicles and brought in. Some, unable to stand or sit, are
brought in on stretchers. The results following the treatment
are indeed marvelous. A gain in weight of a poimd a day is
common. To see the crowds, to witness their transformation
from invahdism, wasted ambition, and poverty, to health, hap-
piness, activity, and prosperity, brings to one's mind the mir-
acles of the New Testament, and the healing of the multi-
The inspectors not confining their work to hookworm disease,
have given all the children in many schools a general physical
examination. They report 40 to 60 per cent, of the children
defective and more or less disabled from other preventable and
MISERIES OF RUIL\L LIFE
The Fann Demonstrators of the General Education Board, of
which there are several hundreds in the South, complete the
series of pictures of rural life in the more neglected sections — of
worn out soil, inefficient cultivation, scanty crop, abandoned
field overgrown with bushes, deeply washed and gullied hillside,
rotten orchard, sprawling fence, tumble-down houses, with un-
kempt and Uttered surroundings. The picture is emphasized by
contrast. Gro\\-ing side by side were shown in the same picture
on one hand the thin, scant, meagre crop of the one-mule farmer,
and the rich, luxuriant, bountiful harvest of the farm demonstrator,
in the same field.
Such are the pictures too often found among our everywhere
neglected rural folk — among people of our o^\ti land, of our o^\ti
blood, of Anglo-Saxon lineage and intelligence. To me they tell a
story vmmatched in pathos, resistless in appeal. No one can look
on scenes like these and turn lightly away. One is bound to
pause and to muse while the fire burns. For this condition of
things exists to-day and now, in spite of the fact that, for decade
after decade, these people have enjoyed the advantages of a com-
mon school system, of county and state superintendents of public
instruction, of normal schools, of high schools in all the centres, of
Christian colleges founded by denominational zeal, of state uni-
versities supported by taxation, the whole supplemented by agri-
cultural and mechanical colleges founded by the United States
Go\-emment. Also, from the viewpoint of rigidly orthodox Puri-
tan Christianity, these communities have been made Christian
statistically in larger percentage than any other equal portion
Here, then, is a vast, \^rious, costly educational S3^tem of a
Christian people, unrelated directly or in any effective way even
indirectly to the earthly life and needs of those for whom it
exists and by whose sacrifices it is, in the main, supported —
a putting asimder of what God hath joined together, disastrous
alike to both. Here are shepherds and there are sheep, suffering
from hunger, devoured and torn by wolves, and neither knows the
other. Can shepherds and sheep be brought together in mutual
love and scnice?
A VISION OF THE REMEDY
Is there aught of remedy for this neglect of rural life? Let us,
at least, j-ield ourselves to the gratifications of a beautiful dream
that there is. In our dream, we have limitless resources, and the
people j-ield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand.
The present educational conventions fade from our minds; and,
unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a
grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make
these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of
learning or of science. We are not to raise up from among them
authors, orators, poets, or men of letters. We shall not search for
embr}-o great artists, painters, musicians. Nor will we cherish
even the humbler ambition to raise up from among them lawyers,
doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we now have
ample supply. We are to follow the admonitions of the good
apostle, who said, ''Mind not high things, but condescend to men
of low degree." And generally, with respect to these high things,
all that we shall try to do is just to create presently about these
country homes an atmosphere and conditions such, that, if by
chance a child of genius should spring up from the soil, that genius
will surely bud and not be blighted. Putting, therefore, all high
things quite behind us, we turn with a sense of freedom and dehght
to the simple, lowly, needful things that promise well for rural life.
For the task that we set before ourselves is a very simple as well;
as a very beautiful one : to train these people as we find themi'
for a perfectly ideal life just where they are — yes, ideal, for we 1
shall allow ourselves to be extravagant since we are only dreaming;
call it idyllic, if you like — an idyllic life imder the skies and
within the horizon, however narrow, where they first open their
eyes. We are to try to make that life, just where it is, healthful,
intelligent, efficient, to fill it with thought and purpose, and with a
gracious social culture not without its joys.
EVERY INDUSTRY IN A CURRICULUM
Let us take, for illustration, as the rural school unit, a territory
or township perhaps six miles square, thirty-six square miles,
containing some twenty-five thousand acres and at present one
hundred and fifty families or more. We shall need a group of
school buildings, and these we will place as near the centre as
possible and for the more distant pupils arrange daily conveyance
in groups. We shall need very ample grounds, many acres.
We will return to this, for just now we prefer to conceive our
school groimds in the ultimate purpose of our work as embracing
the entire township, since our school in its aim includes everybody,
old as well as young; it is to be in session all the year round, and
everyone shall have something yet to learn always before him.
Ever}' industry in the district finds place in our curriculum.
Every kitchen, bam, dairy, shop, is a laboratory for our school.
The growing crops, the orchards, the \ineyards, the gardens, the
forests, the streams, the domestic animals, nay, even the tools of
every farm, are part of our scientific equipment. The horizon
forms the walls of our museum of natural history and the sky its
roof, and all the life within is material and specimen for our study.
HEALTH THE FIRST LESSON
Our first plans shall be for health, as the basis of all well being
and weU doing. We shall ferret out the local causes of ill health
in the family and in the community, also in plant and animal Hie.
We shall call to our aid, of course, the experts, from the chemical
and agricultural colleges and universities, our schools of forestry
and of veterinary medicine. They shall examine and report.
They shall lecture and demonstrate before us and be in constant
correspondence with us. We shaU submit to them our too difficult
problems and they shall solve them for us.
Closely associated with health is the daily supply of food. "I
was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat." It should be sufficiently
varied, regularly pro\-ided, suitably and appetizingly cooked.
Every girl and every boy shall be taught what to eat, how to eat,
and how to cook. At least three times a day throughout his life,
every one of us must eat, and the question of healthful and nutri-
tious diet is perhaps the most important single question in life.
Nor lives the man to whom this very thing is not by Pro\ddence
designed to be no inconsiderable part of his daily satisfactions.
The dear old lady came much nearer the heart of things than many
a di\-inity professor when, being about to pass to her reward and
her pastor asking her which of the di\'ine mercies she felt, at such a
time, to have been most precious, she repUed, "Well, I have always
enjoyed my victuals."
Then comes the question of shelter. "I was a stranger and ye
took Me in." We shall teach all that it is necessary to know
about the sanitation of a home, from cellar to garret, the need of
spotless cleanliness within it, of neatness, taste, and beauty about it.
We shall show the value of ventilation, light, warmth and the best
methods of securing them. We shall study the question of drain-
age, sewerage, the disposal of waste, the water supply, infection,
its source and prevention. We shall plan model kitchens and
model sanitary arrangements, model rural homes. We shall
render the home and all its surroundings tasteful, comfortable, and
The matter of clothing shall not be neglected. "Naked, and ye
clothed Me." We shall study cloth, its methods of manufacture,
tests of its quality. Every person shall be able to distinguish
between the spurious and the genuine and to calculate economy
in clothing to a nicety. Every girl shall be taught to cut, fit, and
make with her own hands the ordinary clothing of the family.
The matter of sanitary clothing is not unimportant. We call to
mind that, for a century past, one Titanic, at the least, full of
children, with some adults, has gone down every month in the
South, for lack of knowledge of a few simple facts about the
hygiene of rural homes and their surroimdings, and for lack of
proper clothing for the feet of the children. Our work on hygiene
shall be very thorough, penetrative and persistent. North as well
as South. We shall have periodic examinations of all the members
of our school by qualified experts. We shall teach the hygiene
of the various members of the body, the hygiene of the eye, the
teeth, the digestive system, the hygiene of sex, of marriage, of
infancy, of age. "I was sick, and ye \'isited Me."
LESSONS IN FARiHNG
So much for health, for food, for clothing, and for shelter. But
rich deUghts still remain to us. We have only as yet laid the
foimdations. We are now prepared to teach these children to
conquer and to harness nature within their horizon to their service
and to the service of the world. The farm demonstrators of the
General Education Board in the South are securing on demonstra-
tion farms in each state about double the average jield of cotton
per acre. Their knowledge of seed selection and cotton culture,
if universally applied, would double the cotton crop and bring to
the cotton raiser at the very least $240,000,000 added profits
annually. One remarks in passing that this possible increase of
$240,000,000 net profit on cotton alone in one year is perhaps four
times the entire money value of all the property which all the
institutions of higher learning in the cotton belt have amassed in
two generations, so complete is their isolation from the life ajid
interests of the people.
The corn clubs of the General Education Board are demonstrat-
ing throughout the South that from two to five times the present
annual yield per acre may be won from the soil. The same is
possible of potatoes. The canning clubs of the same Board are
shoTN-ing profits of from $100 to $250 per acre for the girls of the
family. It is very certain that scientific farming, conducted as a
business, will multiply the annual net profits of the Southern
farmer by at least four. It was a Southern state — North Caro-
lina — that won at the Paris Exposition the first prize for the best
apples in the world. In our dream, ever>' horizon, from Virginia
to Texas and from Maine to CaHfomia, shall be studied with
regard to its possibilities, both in abundance and variety of prod-
ucts; and similar climates and soils the world over, including the
Orient, shall be explored and ransacked for adapted fruits, vege-
tables, grasses, cereals of value.
We are perhaps ready now to go back to our central school,
with its very ample grounds. Ample they will need to be, for the
school itself is to be, within the limits of child life, a microcosm of
the life of the whole community. Not, indeed, of the life of the
commimity as it is, for the adult population for a time will lag far
behind the children. Our school shall be a picture in little of the
commimity as it is to be, in what we called its ideal, its idyllic life.
The children themselves shall form a community, with allotments
and emplo}Tnents, a common social and perhaps a common manu-
factiuiig and commercial life of their own, on these ample grounds.
They shall perform for themselves, under the guidance of skilled
instructors, those agricultural operations as arts which the best
science of agriculture shall prescribe. They shall all be demon-
strators of the highest achievable results in field, garden, kitchen,
sewing room, orchard, vineyard, pasture, dairy, lawTi, and meadow,
not forgetful of the flowers and of the beauty of the landscape.
TEACHING W-HAT CHILDREN WANT TO KNOW
As for the school house, we cannot now even plan the building,
or rather, group of buildings. Quite likely we would not recognize
the futiure group if the plan were put before us to-day, so different
will it be from the traditional school house. For of one thing we
may be sure : Our schools will no longer resemble, in their methods
and their discipline, institutions of penal servitude. They will
not be, as now, places of forced confinement, accompanied by
physical and mental torture during six hours of the day. Strait-
jackets, now called educational, will no longer thwart and stifle
the physical and mental activities of the child. We shall, on the
contrary, take the child from the hand of God, the crown and
glory of His creative work, by Him pronounced good, and by
Jesus blessed. We shall seize the restless activities of his body
and mind and, instead of repressing them, we shall stimulate
those activities, as the natural forces of growth in action. We
shall seek to learn the instincts of the chUd and reverently to
follow and obey them as guides in his development; for those
instincts are the Voice of God within him, teaching us the direction
of his unfolding. We will harness the natural activities of the
child to his natural aspirations, and guide and help him in their
realization. The child naturally wishes to do the things that adults
do, and therefore the operations of adult life form the imitative
plays of the child. The child lives in a dreamland, full of glowing
hopes of the future, and seeks anticipatively to live to-day the life
of his manhood.
So we will organize our children into a little community and teach
them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers
are doing in an imperfect way, in the home, in the shop, on the
farm. We shall train the child for the life before him by methods
which reach the perfection of their adaptation only when the
child shall not be able to distinguish between the pleasures of his
school work and the pleasures of his play.
NO MORE BRANDING WITH THREE r'S
But how about the three R's? The moment we cease to pursue
the three R's as abstract ends, disassociated with anything which
the child has experienced, and bring them forward only when and
as the child needs to use them in his business, he will pick them up
as readily as ball and bat. We are under no extreme necessity of
penning children in a room and chaining them to a bench and
there branding the three R's upon them. The difficulties of
school life, disciplinary and otherwise, are of the teacher's making.
They belong to a false method that has become traditional. How
do we teach children to use carpenter's tools, for illustration? By
studying pictures of these tools in books or by putting the tools
themselves into the hands of the children, with material to work
upon, and things to make? Precisely so with the three R's.
They are nothing in the world but tools. Give them to the
children as tools that they now" need in something definitely put
before them, and they will learn to use them easily and naturally.
THE SCHOOL A CO OPERATIVE DEMOCRACY
But the life is more than meat, as the body is m.ore than raiment.
It is in the souls of the children that our purpose rests. Nature
studies shall acquaint every child with all that he can take in of
that portion of nature which lies about him, in the waters below
him, in the clouds and skies above him. The children shall learn
the names of all the trees, their leaves, the peculiarities of their
brariching, their methods of growth, their value and use; the
names also of all the wild birds, their songs and their habits.
Curiosity shall be aroused about the mysteries in the waters, in the
fields, and in the forests. Insect life not less than plant life shall
disclose wondrous secrets to their eager eyes, so that the minds of
the children shall be filled with interesting themes of thought, and
their glance, wherever it falls, shall beam with intelligence and
inquiry. So the children shall be kept from torpor and vacancy
of mind. The breath of life shall be breathed into their clay, and
they shall at last become li\-ing souls.
Ruskin has somewhere said that education does not consist in
teaching people to know what they do not know, but in teaching
them to behave as they do not behave mentally, morally, phys-
ically, socially. In our little microcosm of .life, the children shall
form an ideal society. Their life shall be developed and perfected
indi\-idually through a close-knit social life. The child shall not
be riveted to his separate spot; he shall not be forbidden to speak
or to whisper; he shall not be warned not to afford help to any
imfortmiate near by; the instinct to render first aid to the injured,
so to speak, shall not be repressed. Far from that, the first social
principle of our school shall be to encourage the children to aid
each other as freely as possible. Indeed, much of the teaching
will be done under supervision by means of mutual assistance of
the pupils. Doubtless the pupil groups will have their own pupil
captains, as they have their baseball captains. This free social
life of the children during all the hours of the school, conducted
mainly out of doors, will form an ideal laboratory of manners and
of character, affording opportunity for the sweetest social culture,
courtesy, helpfulness, gentleness, deference, truth, reverence,
honor, chivalry. These Airtues shall form the breath and atmos-
phere of our child commimity.
THE ART OF RECREATION
A new science or a new art, just now in process, perhaps not yet
come to self-consciousness, shall be fuUy developed for our schools
— the art of recreation for young and old, for all pursuits, for all
seasons, for both sexes, indoors, out of doors. Some sweet, health-
ful, happy, adapted recreation shall enter into the programme,
not occasionally, but every day, for young and old alike. Ulti-
mately, there will be professors of popular recreation. They shall
be sent to us from the colleges, to teach us all the ways of relief
from strain and tedium, precisely adapted. And aU together we
shall have our weekly half holiday for community recreations.
Beauty, too, we shall cultivate no less than recreation. It is
delightful to know that the sense of beauty in sight and sound
is instinctive in mankind, ineradicable, fimdamental as hunger.
Deeper than intelligence it lies in our physical being, and runs
down from mankind through many orders to the very insects.
The sense of beauty in our rural children, as yet almost unculti-
vated and undeveloped, is a promising field of joy and blessedness.
Accordingly, there shall be music, vocal and instrumental. We
shall have an orchestra, if possible a band, a chorus — and dancing
shall be taught in utmost grace of movement, beginning with the
littlest children, singly and in groups. The laws of beauty are
indeed little known as yet, but scenes of beauty shall everywhere
be pointed out and analyzed and dwelt upon to the full, and the
art of dra'wing them shall be offered to all, as a means of close
observation, of analysis, and of more perfect recognition and
enjoyment of beauty.
So we ha^^e brought our little commimity at last to art and refine-
ment. Such a people will demand literature and a library of their
own. And when they begin to select and to read good books for
themselves, our particular task will be done. We may leave them
then, I think, to their natural local leaders. We have taught
them how to live the life of the farm, of the fireside, of the rural
community, to make it healthful, intelligent, efl&cient, productive,
social, and no longer isolated. We have wakened sluggishness to
interest and inquiry. We have given the mind, in the intelligent
conduct of the daUy vocation, in the study and enjoyment of
nature, material for some of the joys of the intellectual life. We
have trained the eye for beauty, the ear for harmony, the soul for
gentleness and courtesy, and made possible to these least of
Christ's brethren the life of love and joy and admiration. We have
made country life more desirable than city life and raised up in the
country the natural aristocracy of the nation.
Such is our dream. Must it be altogether a dream? Surely, it
ought to be and, therefore, will be, realized, if not in its processes —
and I have described processes at all mainly for pictorial effect
— certainly in its results. If it be an achievement beyond our
present civilization, then our more enlightened and capable child-
ren will certainly accomplish it. Come, in the end, it must and
But the cost? The cost in money will be limited; the gain in
money will be limitless. The farm demonstrations of scientific
agriculture in the South are showing average gains of Sio to $30
per acre on soil cultivated by demonstration methods. The
farmers themselves, therefore, could well afford in the end to pay
the expense. The railroads alone could do it, out of their increased
traflBc created thereby. A selected group of manufacturers,
another group of exporters and importers, another group of whole-
sale merchants, another of retail merchants, could each afford to
pay the whole expense, as a commercial investment for profit.
And so the state, by general taxation of land, industry, trade, and
commerce (for all would be alike benefited) could well afford to
foot the bill; or the group of states forming the nation could
UTILIZING THE COLLEGE-BRED YOUTH
We shall have to look to our colleges and universities to furnish
teachers. We have elaborate and effective apparatus, worked
with fervid zeal, for the world-wide extension of our civilization.
Also, for the extension downward of the blessings of civilization
through the masses of our own people, we have powerful, costly,
and effective apparatus, educational and religious, all being run
with much acclaim. But the machine, as we have seen, seems
to be running on the reverse gears. Instead of carrying the fruits
of civilization downward to the homes of the people, the system
as now run is accurately adjusted to take out of the homes of the
people a few of the choicer youths, to ci\ilize these and to carry
them to the top, there to group and cohere as social cream. Thus,
the common school is adapted to select pupils for the high school.
The high school is adjusted to select and send up annually to the
college a quota of students prepared in the fourteen units required
for college entrance by the Carnegie pension system. The college,
in turn, fimds its ends in the sheepskin and the cap and gown.
The ancient scribes of Jerusalem likewise, not a religious order
like the Pharisees, were a learned order. They were graduates of
one or the other of the two ancient seats of learning at Jerusalem,
founded in the days of Nehemiah. Their long robes were, in fact,
the academic gowTi — then, as now, the badge of learning. Be-
ware of the scribes, who desire to walk in academic gowns and
receive salutations in the marketplaces and the chief places in the
synagogue and the first places at social functions. Their learning,
their doctors' degrees, their academic gowns, find their end in
livelihood, in personal distinction, in social advancement, and
not in the enrichment and uplift of the common life. Such was
Christ's criticism of the formal learning of his day. The useful-
ness of the college too often ends quite precisely when and where it
ought to begin. The shepherds are trained, but the sheep go
shepherdless. WTien the spirit of education shall be changed, as it
will be, then the direction in which the machine works will be
reversed, and the colleges will studiously employ theniselves in
carrying civilization with all its blessings downward to the people
on the soil. If schools of rural life spring up in numbers, the col-
leges will not be slow to adopt them and to nourish them with all
that is best and most helpful from their ample store. Our leading
educators are eager to escape from outworn traditions, in which
they are enmeshed. The college campus will extend to the
boundary line of the state, so as to include all its industries, its
farms and its households. Some changes there will be, perhaps,
in the curriculum, some additions, quite likely in the direction of
applied science, some transfers of emphasis, no lowering, but
rather full high advancing of standards of scholarship, culture, dis-
cipline, research, because all will be dedicated to high and reward-
In the state of Wisconsin, now perhaps the best governed of all
our states, the University writes the laws that go on the statute
books, University professors guide and control the main depart-
ments of state administration and inquir}^; there is no limit to the
financial resources which a grateful people are placing at the
disposal of learning, thus consecrated to the service of the common-
wealth. Our more ancient seats of learning pride themselves
justly on their antiquity, on their dignity, on the reverence in
which they are held, on the great names that have been and are
associated with them. But it is yet theirs to reign over empires
now undreamed; to inherit a kingdom that has awaited them
from the foundation of the world; to wTite the laws of obedient
states; to know the love of a reverent, grateful, and generous
''Scatter plenty o'er a smiling land
And read their history in a nation's eyes. "
Gates, Frederick Taylor
The country school of
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